The Fact of a Body – Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working on the retrial defence of death-row convicted murderer and child molester, Ricky Langley, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti death penalty. But the moment Ricky’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes, the moment she hears him speak of his crimes, she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case, realizing that despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.
Crime, even the darkest and most unspeakable acts, can happen to any one of us, and as Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining minute details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, to reckon with how her own past colours her view of his crime.
As enthralling as true-crime classics such as In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and broadcast phenomena such as Making a Murderer and Serial, The Fact of a Body is a groundbreaking, heart-stopping investigation into how the law is personal, composed of individual stories and proof that arriving at the truth is more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
My thanks to Rachael at Pan Macmillan for my review copy – received through Netgalley
Non fiction – sometimes (well almost never) I read non fiction. The few times I do make a departure from my comfort zone of “made-up stuff” it has to be for a book that really captures my interest – The Fact of a Body was that book. The synopsis (as outlined above) grabbed me – why would someone so firmly against the death penalty suddenly have such a dramatic change of heart. What could one man have done to shake the fundamental belief of an educated and intelligent young woman that would make her wish him dead? That is the kind of non-fiction story I cannot look past.
Ricky Langley was a paedophile who murdered a young boy and hid his body for several days before his crime was finally discovered and he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to death. The Fact of a Body will explore Langley’s story, his crimes are unflinchingly documented, his motives and behaviour will be considered and it will frequently make for uncomfortable reading.
Langley’s background and the events leading to his conviction will told by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich – a lawyer who travelled to Louisiana to work on death sentence cases during summer recess from Law School. The author tells the reader Langley’s story and cold facts are fleshed out into an absorbing narrative. At times I did feel I was reading a work of fiction such was the level of detail and the recreation of conversations that are used to build up an accurate recreation of events.
Interwoven with the Ricky Langley story is that of the author herself. This is her tale too and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich will give an equally unflinching account of how her life was shaped. From her first introduction to law, the fascination of arguing cases and the desire to pursue a legal career we also get her personal story. The no spoilers rule if firmly in play here but if you read through the description at the top of the review it should be clear that Langley’s case will cause the author to confront some close-to-home events in her own life.
The Fact of a Body is a compelling read. It is the story of families and the secrets they keep, the struggles they face and it is the story of a man who knows he has a problem which he cannot control, yet was allowed to live and work in a community unchallenged by the authorities until it was too late to prevent a tragic death.
I found The Fact of a Body more unsettling than many thrillers or horror stories I have read. I put this down to knowing that the crimes I was reading about were based on fact – someone died, mistakes were made and the grief we read about were real tears shed by grieving survivors. That said, I was very glad to have read The Fact of a Body as it was such a powerful reading experience. As the blurb said…if you watched and were hooked by Making a Murderer then The Fact of a Body should be an immediate addition to your bookshelves.
The Fact of a Body was published on 18 May 2017 by Macmillan and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fact-Body-Murder-Memoir/dp/1509805621/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495228425&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fact+of+a+body